—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
After hours we’d continue
Into the alley behind the bar.
Sometimes, in a festive mood,
Cece would join us, bringing
Half pints of Kessler’s
And Four Roses.
We’d stand, shivering
In the cold, passing small
Ourselves on not
Having become the straights
We so despised.
One night a call
From inside. Odd.
Ominous. Cece hurried
In to answer.
Dropped a bottle
On the way in. Son, Chuck,
Dead in Viet Nam. Broken
Bottle of Four Roses
In the alley slush.
Sac. Poetry Center Reading, Jan. 25
INFINITY AS THE BASE MEASURE
Oh aren’t we just precious
In our little angel outfits
Mothered upon us
Off we go outside
Where we are instantly
Judged and measured
Against worlds of possibilities
Against fashion labels
We need to upgrade our
Homes, cars, computers,
Diet, savings plans,
Some use mind-altering
Substances to upgrade
Their mental reach
Some use poetry
The coal miner’s daughter
Wins the lottery
Buys dad a fresh, new
The more you know,
The more you know
How many lies you
Will need to tell
Putting your sparkling
In the setting of a
Vibrating recliner chair
Shielded from the
WALTZ ALONG THE NILE
—Johnathan Herold, Lodi, CA
WHAT YOU GAVE TO ME
Past the furthest place you’ve gone,
Or any place you’ll never see,
And that is what you gave to me.
It is open, it is green,
There the wind blows through the grass,
Past a love that tried to last,
In the colors made for me,
And as I lie here on this bed,
With lonely heart and somber head,
Waiting still to join the dead,
Tis where you first laid eyes on me.
And that is what you gave to me.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
It was the feast of St. Francis of Assisi,
and my puppy was dancing for his saint, the one
who touches beasts with blessing, who knows
hearts and tongues of the wild, and sits down
conversing with faiths of all species.
My puppy rears on his hind legs, stallion
without hooves. He leaps to bear wind in his
mouth like kisses. He sings with sky,
the scent of life. He loves work as he loves
his master calling “don’t stop dancing”—
a ribbon-dance with the nylon webbing
his handler clipped to his harness—
his human always worrying
what commands should be given.
My puppy the creature dancing love.
SUMMER NO RAIN
Six years old, he’s geared to ceiling fans
and pasture sprinklers spiraling sunflash
of water and air spinning him
in whirlpools of circles never stopping
stranded on his island in a briny sea—salt
in the nerves at birth, or low blood sodium?
From teacher to doctor to the next
expert up the ladder. Questions, no answers.
If he has a fever his hair’s on fire.
He drafts schematics linking sprinklers
to fans to a solar-flasher toy from the bazaar:
blueprints for a mini-city powered by
a boy’s brain circuits of water and sun, free
air. Phoebus-haired he runs headlong.
Beautiful mystery of the spinning circle.
AFTER THE NIGHT FAST
I thought it was bright drops of blood on snow—
some small creature hunted by hawk or owl?
How much goes on around us we don’t know;
what secrets of ourselves the labs might show….
But sun’s just rising in its foggy cowl,
I want my coffee. And those drops so red?
Maybe petals of a rose let loose or
flown—lover’s token or a flaunt, instead?
Something lost or drawn while I slept a-bed.
Drops soft and warm as skin, fresh blood before
it dries, freezes, buries itself in white.
A crimson flame, as some old poet told.
That child skipping ahead, bundled up tight,
is scattering red petals in the cold.
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
Wet-winged sparrows sing through rain,
faint notes outside the window pane—
songs that drift like shells to shore,
curve and float like whitecaps roar.
Raising the window for wind's refrain,
we shiver, but sparrows can sustain
aa song though drenched in greenwood lane.
Red oak branches anchor their score.
In sudden storms may we attain
some fairer weather in our brain.
When clouds grow gray and showers pour,
if floundering dreams have lost their oar,
may hopes be heightened while there remain
(French Form: Rondeau)
—Claire J. Baker
An elderly couple adopted
a long-homeless Tom cat;
set up for him
in their tidy neighborhood
on half-hidden porch
a palatial mansion of boxes
with ins and outs cats crave;
they tossed in an old bath towel.
Curious, we peek in to see
old Tom curled cozy
under a setting sun—
pellets of past failures
alchemize into gold
and he rests his gun.
—Claire J. Baker
on my cheek
the other cheek.
Many thanks to our tasty bouillabaisse of contributors this morning, starting off this busy week in NorCal poetry! Kevin Jones had a different take on Roses in the Snow...
Poetry events this week include Literary Tides: Portuguese-inspired Poems and Other Writings tonight at Sac. Poetry Center. Thursday has two choices: the Squaw Valley Community of Writers benefit at Sierra 2, and The Poetry Night Reading Series in Davis. On Friday night, SPC hosts a book launch for a bio by Dorothy Rice, and on Sunday, two events: Mosaic of Voices presenting Tule Review Writers, and the Einstein Center series featuring Taylor Graham, James Lee Jobe, and Allegra Silberstein. Scroll down to our blue box at the right (under the green box) for all the details of these and other events to come. (And watch for other readings that may pop up during the week, too!)
Also beginning this week, Rhony Bhopla will be facilitating the new SPC Thursday Night Poetry Workshop, this one at Valley Hi N. Laguna Library. Details are under Medusa’s “Food for the Brain” section of the green box at the right of this column. The long-standing SPC Tues. Night Workshop continues to be ably facilitated by Danyen Powell at the Hart Sr. Center; that info is also in the green box.
Speaking of Taylor Graham, see her three poems above, and note that the first two are in response to D.R. Wagner’s poems last Saturday. The third is about our current Seed of the Week: Roses in the Snow.
Poetry Now, a publication of the Sacramento Poetry Center, is pleased to announce a call for submissions for the 2016 issue; deadline is Mar. 28. Poetry Now is becoming an online publication that showcases and celebrates the work of Northern California poets and writers. They accept submissions of poetry and visual art, as well as poetry-related articles, book reviews, and interviews. Go to sacramentopoetrycenter.submittable.com/submit to submit.
And our good pal, Charles Mariano of Sacramento, has finished his book, Tio Boogie, which was two years and 194 pages in the making. He’s keeping distribution low-key, so you can either purchase a copy from him directly, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll forward your request to him. Congratulations, CM!